As players take their final breaks before training camp, The Redskins Blog will take a look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today we’ll focus on first-round defensive lineman Jonathan Allen:
1. He’s a DMV local.
Though Jonathan Allen played collegiately at Alabama, the state in which he was born, he grew up just 10 minutes from the Redskins facility in Loudon County, Va., and was raised to root for the Redskins.
“To play for the Redskins means a lot,” he said. “I still remember the days when I would come up to the Redskins’ facility when we first got Donovan McNabb and I was out there for training camp and watching them.”
With roots in Washington, Allen will enter his first NFL season with support from his parents and siblings not only as family, but as fans, too.
“For my family, they are so excited. Right in the backyard,” Allen said. “It’s something you only hear about in stories. Not really something we even thought could happen, so now that it happened is really just a blessing and a dream come true.”
Though he hasn’t even played a game with the team, Allen has already embraced his position in the community and given back to the area that he calls home, visiting the Capital Area Food Bank and assisting with its charitable operations.
2. He’s a part of the Redskins’ new defensive plan.
As the team’s first defensive selection in the first round since linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in 2011, acquiring Allen as the 17th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft was the first step in head coach Jay Gruden’s defensive revitalization.
“You talk about upgrading your defense, well you have to pick a guy high. You have to take the best at the position, and he’s the best defensive lineman we thought in the draft,” the head coach said.
“We like his size, we like his strength, we like his ability to rush the passer, play the run,” he continued. “He’s a very versatile guy – he can play all the positions on defensive line. Really, never in a million years did we think he would be there at 17, but we’re happy-as-heck he was. There was not a lot of debate in there – we put the card in and took a heck-of-a football player and a great person.”
Allen is prepared to contribute to the rebuilding of the Redskins defense in any role that he can.
“As a football player, I just want to be out there. That’s the most important thing for me,” Allen said. “So, where ever the coaches tell me to play at that’s where I’m going to go play at and do it effectively.”
3. He played varsity basketball in high school.
As a student at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., Allen was a two-sport athlete, playing football and basketball.
“You knew he was a good athlete,” said Stone Bridge High School head football coach Mickey Thompson. “You just didn’t know if he was a football player or basketball player.”
Allen grew both in size and as an athlete, and his dominant sport soon became clear. His football success, however, was not immediate. The current defensive lineman played at wide receiver and defensive back before moving to the line. After honing his craft here, though, Allen was unstoppable.
As a senior, he recorded 119 tackles with nine sacks, six fumble recoveries, eight pass breakups, six blocked kicks and seven pass breakups. The 2012 Virginia Gatorade High School Player of the Year was a five-star recruit and nationally ranked 11th at defensive end among the Class of 2013.
4.He had an award-winning collegiate senior year.
Allen ascended the defensive line ranks at Alabama, standing out as a star player his senior season.
Though the Crimson Tide fell short of a 2016 National Championship title, Allen ended his collegiate career with countless accolades: unanimous first-team All-American selection, First-Team All-SEC selection for the third consecutive year, the Chuck Bednarik Award (awarded by the Maxwell Football Club to the best defensive player in America), the Bronko Nagurski Award (awarded annually by the Football Writers Association of America to the best defensive player in the nation), the Ted Hendricks Award (awarded by the Ted Hendricks Foundation to college football’s top defensive end), the Rotary Lombardi Award (awarded by the Rotary Club in Houston to the best college football lineman or linebacker) and finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting.
In four seasons with the Crimson Tide, Allen amassed 152 tackles along with 28 sacks, six passes defensed, three fumbles forced, three fumbles recovered and a touchdown. His 28 sacks rank the second-most in school history, only behind Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
5. He’s recently engaged.
Just 11 days before the draft, Allen proposed to his girlfriend, Hannah Franklin. The two met at Alabama and had been dating for a few years before the April 16 proposal. Though Franklin, an Illinois native, was raised a Chicago Bears fan, according to Allen’s interview on AL.com, she will now cheer for her soon-to-be husband in Washington.
6. He was in foster care.
When divorce split his biological parents and military obligations sent his father overseas, Allen and his brother, Richard III, found themselves in the care of their mother. After moving from hotel to hotel and missing countless days of school, the brothers were placed in foster care. Seven years Jonathan’s senior, Richard III supported his younger brother and strove to provide a normal childhood atmosphere for Allen despite their circumstances.
“I had to lean on my brother a lot,” Allen told the Washington Post. “He’s the one I really leaned on. He’s the one who got us through a lot of things.”
“Honestly, those are some of the happiest times of my life,” he added of his foster care experiences. “I remember me and my brother playing football, playing games. I know it might sound crazy now but back then, as long as I was with my brother, I didn’t really care what else happened to be honest.”
Reunited with their father, Richard, nearly a year later, football became the agent that bound the Allens.
“Football really brought all three of us together,” said Richard III. “We all really loved football, and watching Jonathan excel at football brought us all together. That was great bonding time for us growing up.”
7. He has NFL role models and rivals.
Raised a Redskins fan, Allen admires a few of the franchise’s former players.
“As far as role models, [former Redskins tight end] Chris Cooley was a guy who I’ve always kind of had a relationship with, so he’s definitely been a big help to me through this process,” Allen said. “If I had to choose one, I would definitely say Chris Cooley. He’s just a great role model, a great leader, been a great mentor to me. He’s been tremendous for me.”
His favorite Redskin, however, is former running back Clinton Portis.
“He was a beast,” Allen said of Portis. “I loved the way he played the game, I loved watching him run the ball.”
Allen had the opportunity to call Portis shortly after the young defensive lineman joined the team. As Allen spoke to Portis post-draft, the retired player summed up the young player’s situation: “Falling to 17 [was] a blessing in disguise.”
As for those he’d like to take down, for Allen, the most worthy opponent can only be the league’s best.
“If I had to choose [a player I’d most like to tackle], I would say Tom Brady,” Allen said, “only because in my opinion he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, so just to have that opportunity would be a blessing.”
Allan’s greatest adversary, however, is not in New England, but in Dallas.
“You know what I’m looking forward to the most? Playing the Cowboys,” Allen said. “Oh man, I can’t wait.”